Jamaica - 2010

The trip got off to a rocky start: we made the mistake of flying with Spirit Airlines. This error was immediately apparent upon entry into the terminal, where we found a huge line served by four staff, two of which spent the entire time on the phone, and the other two seeming to run off to help with bags between customers. If we didn't arrive to the airport 2+ hours ahead of time, we never would have made it on our fully-booked flight, which took off 80% empty. The comedy didn't end there either. Upon asking for water, the stewardess told me only bottled water was available, for $3. I asked for tap water, but she said that was a bad idea and potentially damaging to my health. I commented my understanding was that FAA regulations required airlines to provide potable water to passengers. Clearly annoyed, she said the best she could do was provide me a cup of ice, which I accepted and nursed for the rest of the flight.

Landing in Kingston in mid afternoon, we gunned it by rental car across the Blue Mountains to Port Antonio, arriving by nightfall. The town was very cute and sleepy, and made an excellent base for two nights. Day two saw us striking out along the north coast to Boston Bay for its beautiful beaches and jerk seasonings. We also hit up splendid Reach Falls, sloshing up the river to shimmy down some caves carved out by the rushing water. Heavy rains pounded the coast that night, causing flooding. We mostly kicked back in the hotel, drank tea and read. We ventured out of our hotel in the afternoon once the rains had subsided, drove inland, and floated down the Rio Grande by bamboo raft. On the way back to Port Antonio, we detoured to a grand summer retreat for the elite. The groundsman let us in and gave us a quick tour.

Day four: destination Falmouth, one of the best preserved Georgian towns in the Caribbean. To break the journey, we stopped in touristy Ochio Rios and the beautifully perched Firefly Estate. After finding our intended hotel dilapidated and abandoned, I scooted down the beach in hopes of finding alternative accommodation. I stumbled into a 95% constructed mega resort, where I was quickly intercepted by a guard patrolling the grounds. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I asked to speak to the manager, who, after some negotiation and a few phone calls, agreed to let us stay on the cheap. We had the huge complex to ourselves! Unfortunately, this meant my younger brother had to scale the 10' security fence each time we returned to the compound with our car so that we could be let in. It also turned out the shower in our room had no water, forcing us to shower down on the beach. But otherwise, the room was swanky!

That night, we had some surprisingly delicious chinese food (needed a break), followed by a night swim in the Phosphorescent Lagoon. Although expensive (and non negotiable), it was totally worth it. Like nothing I'd seen before. Ethereal glowing trails created by the motion of swimming and disturbed bio-luminescent algae. Wild. Apparently only exists in like six places on the planet.

After grabbing some breakfast supplies in town, we hit the road again. We roamed Montego Bay briefly to see what the fuss was all about. Weren't particularly impressed - far nicer beaches on the north/east coast. We then drove through cockpit country (interesting geological features), heading for our new base of exploration, Treasure Beach. Day six was mostly spent getting to and from the fascinating Accompong Festival, which celebrates the 1739 treaty between the Maroons and English. This involved the village leaders performing a secret ceremony in a nearby cave, the blowing of a cow horn full of rum to signal the emergence, much dancing and singing, and a huge procession through the town.

Following a relaxing morning on the beach the next day, we drove out to lovely YS Falls for a refreshing splash around. Part of the route took us along Bamboo Avenue - a 2.5 mile section of the road flanked by shady Bamboo. We then retreated to Black River to haggle a fisherman to take us out to the Pelican Bar. We grabbed a few drinks on the curious, stilted structure a mile off the coast and watched the sunset. The following day featured an equally leisurely morning. We trickled out around 4pm to see the view from lovers leap (closed, but some friendly jamaicans showed us around their neighboring property). We finished the day with a delicious seafood-centric feast at "Little Ochie" in Alligator Pond (Jamaica has many unusual town names).

On our last day in Jamaica, we scooted through Mandeville, stopped in Spanish Town to see the cast iron bridge (the oldest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere), and cruised around Kingston's sites briefly. Before returning our rental car, we continued out on the airport road to the tip of the peninsula where Port Royal once stood. Following a quick exploration of the fort and modern town, we said good bye to the Caribbean sun, and jumped our flight back home. I won't regale you with the adventure home. Long story short, don't fly Spirit Airlines.

© Chris Harrison